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The UK General Election Result Will Probably End Up Changing Britain Forever

The Scottish National Party won big, the centrist Liberal Democrats lost badly, and the Conservatives held on to power in a result that has shocked the nation.

by Aaron Bastani
May 8 2015, 11:50am

Photo of Prime Minister David Cameron by Harry Metcalfe via Wikipedia

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

When the BBC announced their exit poll at 10 PM last night as polling stations across the country closed, the results they projected were nothing short of a shock. While survey data in the days leading up to the election had predicted that the Conservatives would be the largest party in parliament, nothing had hinted at the size of the lead they now seemingly held.

Labour looked fucked. Any chance Ed Miliband had of forming the next government was negligible, with his primary concern being political survival as Labour leader.

However, perhaps the biggest story of the night was in Scotland, with the SNP taking nearly every seat north of the border. When the final results came in, they had won 56 out of 59 seats. To put that in context, they won just six in 2010.

And it is there, in Scotland, where the vast majority of Labour's losses have been incurred. Alongside that, they have failed to make any headway in England and Wales. Everyone assumed ex-Lib Dem voters would head for the center-left embrace of Labour, but many voted Tory. Just as the rising UKIP vote seems to draw upon former Labour voters as much as Conservative ones, so too were Liberal Democrats more right-wing than many previously realized. Those two factors account for Miliband's night to forget.

While in the short-term that bodes well for the Conservatives, in the longer-term it means political union between England and Scotland will be put under more stress than ever before. At no point in the history of British democracy have the two nations voted so differently, with the SNP enjoying the most impressive success of any party in the postwar period, and all on an anti-austerity ticket that refuses to spend £100 billion on replacing Trident. When you compare that to England, where UKIP and the Conservatives seem to have won around 50 percent of the popular vote between them, it's difficult to see how such difference can be reconciled without major constitutional reform. You can't have one nation backing austerity and another panning it without something breaking.

While the referendum on Scottish independence was only last year, expect concessions to the SNP now that the Tories are back in—probably on a major devolution of powers.

WATCH: The New Wave - Conservatives

Just as few rises have been as meteoric as that of the SNP last night, few falls have been as catastrophic as that of the Liberal Democrats. The party won 57 seats in 2010, but only eight this time round. Some of their safest seats in the country have fallen in the process, from Vince Cable to Simon Hughes, Lynn Featherstone and Danny Alexander. Indeed, the only real Liberal Democrat of any stature to remain standing, if bloodied, is Nick Clegg, who saw his majority in Sheffield Hallam whittled down from 15,000 to 3,000. In a short speech after that victory the deputy Prime Minister strongly hinted that he would resign as leader of the party.

While its easy to see the result as a business-as-usual Tory victory, it is anything but. On the one side are UKIP and the Greens, who could see millions of votes leading to only a handful of seats; on the other is a party, the SNP, which is the greatest democratic challenge to Westminster politics since the electoral success of Sinn Fein in 1918. Yesterday's election was only the start, and on the other side of what looks to be days—if not months—of deadlock and negotiation, lies electoral and constitutional reform. What, and to whose advantage remains unclear.

What we can say is that because of how we voted, from our membership within the EU to even the political union of our country, Britain is likely to look very different in a few years time.

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